Vintage Vitale: Stanley the Flamingo

Stanley was created strictly for the purpose of entering a contest. I was headed to my very first puppetry festival, in Tampa, Florida, and the theme was flamingos. A contest for flamingo puppets was going to be held, and I was determined to enter.
Back then, in the late 80’s, there still was little variety in colors of plush in the fabric stores. I was extremely lucky, I think, to find this shade of pink. It’s the same so-so quality plush you’ll find in any fabric store in the “fake fur” section. Wal-Mart even has the stuff now. I grabbed some pink robeweight velour in pink and in white for the legs and beak(finally realizing that a bird’s beak and legs are not ALWAYS THE SAME COLOR), a dash of black velour,a bit of black long fur, and I was stocked with the fabric I needed.

(Stan, me, and friend Drew Allison with his fox, Sleazy)

The only problem was, how to make the long legs? The stuff I finally happened upon for the legs I can hardly even begin to describe, because I don’t know what it is.All I can say is that I found it at a fabric store, and it was like very thick cotton rope.I think it might be for stuffing fancy rolled trim on upholstery. It’s definitely an interior decorating thing. I did not make the legs out of foam because I wanted them to be fairly stiff although still pliable. Had they been foam, they would have been far too floppy.They hang with a nice weight to them.

I made the foam head, complete with the boomerang-shaped beak of a real flamingo. Let me tell you, this was not easy.I am still amazed that,nearly twenty years later, his beak still holds its shape and opens and closes without shifting sideways.My grandmother and I set to work with the pattern I’d made. When all the pieces were sewn together, I stuffed his wings and they went on, complete with little black tufts at the tips for long flight feathers. The legs were put together with foam feet(covered in fabric) and then I added the features. His eyes are the usual Easter egg tops with acrylic jewels for pupils like all my old puppets, and he has bushy black fake fur eyebrows.

The festival came, and Stan and I went onstage with the other contestants for the Flamingo Puppet Contest. I was wearing a flamingo tee shirt and also flamingo-shaped earrings. We took the “Best Legs” prize and we won an atrociously huge bottle of pink bubble bath.

Stanley is named after Stan Lynch, the original drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

So that’s the story of Stan. Hope you enjoyed it!

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